DRAGON BOATS AND ZONGZI: THE STORY OF A FESTIVAL
The Dragon Boat Festival is here and coming ashore with it are it’s legends, superstitions and customs. One of the big traditional festivals of China with over two thousand years of history, it occurs each year on the 5thday of the 5thmonth of the Chinese lunar calendar, 7thJune this year on the Western Calendar, with temperatures getting as hot as a dragon’s mouth. Let’s take a gander at what we have to look forward to on this particularly special day.
- Dragon Boat racing
- Wrapping and eating Zongzi
The story behind the event is that of Qu Yuan, a noble poet and minister from the warring states period who fought for the good of his country but was ultimately powerless and dismayed, drowning himself in the river. The ancient custom of dragon boat racing is said to have originated from people rowing out in dragon boats to find the patriotic Qu Yuan to disperse the fishes and evil spirits away from consuming his body. So annually, two sets of dragon boats with two teams will race in commemoration of the great Qu Yuan. This practice has spread nationwide and even into other parts of the world, where it has become entertainment and a competitive sport.
China is a land with a rich food culture, so it’s no surprise that like other Chinese festivals, the Dragon Boat Festival is too associated with a specific type of food. The customary food to eat on this day are the delicious sticky rice dumplings – zongzi. You may ask why? Well, this is also tied to the story of Qu Yuan. In another effort to keep the fishes away from eating Qu Yuan’s body, people wrapped glutinous rice and meat in palm tree leaves and dropped them in the river to distract the fish. Gradually, making and eating Zongzi has become a synonymous part of this festival. Nowadays zongzi have more and more kinds, more and more flavours, and more and more people love them.
- Drinking Realgar Wine
- Hanging Calamus and Wormwood
Drinking Realgar wine, a Chinese alcoholic drink, and hanging Calamus and wormwood on doors, are two customs which have passed through the generations along with the festival, that are believed to drive away evil spirits and diseases. This is why during this time the most common greeting we say is: duānwǔ ānkāng (端午安康) – wishing good health and safety for the Dragon Boat Festival.
duānwǔ jié - 端午节- Dragon Boat Festival
duānwǔ ānkāng - 端午安康– good health and safety for the Dragon Boat Festival
sài lóngzhōu - 赛龙舟- Dragon Boat Race
zònɡzi - 粽子- zongzi (sticky rice and meat wrapped with palm tree leaves)
nuò mǐ - 糯米- sticky rice in the zongzi
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